Updated: Harper approves federal loan guarantee

Lower Churchill project a sealed deal with the federal government

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be bringing news of a Muskrat Falls loan agreement tomorrow, when he touches down on the island. Details of the federal government’s agreement to back the $6.2 billion project are unknown as of yet.

While many (most notably Premier Kathy Dunderdale and the provincial government) will be happy to hear of the federal support, the news is sure to worry others who aren’t for the Lower Churchill hydro deal. During Monday’s meeting of the house of assembly, Liberal opposition leader Yvonne Jones expressed further concern for the energy project:

“No answers from the premier; she is out there trying to sell a big deal, Mr. Speaker, in the province and she gets up and gets on with such gibberish in the house of assembly. Very clear, very simple questions, Mr. Speaker; why is it that the cost that you are projecting to build this transmission line is cheaper than it would have been 13 years ago, Mr. Speaker, given the fact that everything else has increased in cost including the price of steel? I ask the premier to have a little decency and to stand up and explain that to the people of the province.”

As well, the NunatuKavut Community Council is still protesting public environmental hearings on the mega hydroelectric project, despite a recent media report that suggests otherwise.

A report that the NunatuKavut Community Council (which lost an injunction case aimed at stopping environmental hearings on the Lower Churchill project earlier this month) was “still willing to participate in the process,” was released today. It stated that “the NunatuKavut Community Council is encouraging its members to participate in the hearings and learn about the project’s components and layout, construction, operation, and maintenance.” And that a public meeting was happening in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this evening.

Chris Montague, President of the NunatuKavut Community Council, said these reports are based on misinterpretation:

What happened is: this has to do with the transmission project, which our organization is actually working on now. Because the generation project is a separate project which involves the site at Muskrat Falls. The transmission project should be part of it, but it’s not, it’s a separate project. And we were going to have our people drop in to discuss this, NALCOR was going to be there, but it has nothing to do with the public hearings.

“I don’t know what happened there,” said Montague, “but there’s not going to be a meeting tonight.”

Montague said that the injunction was filed to halt the environmental hearings until there was a “sufficiency” of information, but, having lost the case, “we see that the system that we’re dealing with — we can’t trust them. And once you lose that trust with the people that you’re dealing with, then things change.”

According to Montague, what started as a quest for due-process morphed into a galvanizing realization:

The fact is, as it now stands, we can’t accept the project. We could accept a run of the river or some compromise. We wanted to hear the situation out first, and find out what the impacts are before we made our decisions… But as I said, this process is not the be all and end all; its the opening round in a long struggle and it’s a bump in the road, it’s not even a setback. The fact is that it lights our path and clears our way to show what we’re up against.

Last week, NALCOR announced a deal with Montreal engineering firm SNC-Lavin for the engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) for components of the project’s first phase.

TheIndependent.ca will be covering the Prime Minister’s visit Thursday. Look for updates throughout the day.

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